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Monday, June 15, 2015

Spy

Reteaming once again with Paul Feig, will Spy be the movie to cement the over-exposure of Melissa McCarthy or will it rejuvenate her once incredibly promising movie career? Yes...

Reuniting for the third time with her Bridesmaids director Paul Feig, Melissa McCarthy once again applies her considerable comedic talents to a major Hollywood comedy: this time tackling the time honoured tradition of the spy comedy. And even if I can't quite give Spy the glowing thumbs up of most reviews, as it is very, very inconsistent, I can say that it's almost definitely the best comedy released this year so far and, though she comes close to being outdone by two of her co-stars, it's also a nice step forward for McCarthy who was very much in danger of being typecast as the profane, often repulsive "trailer trash chick" that already started to grate in her second collaboration with Paul Feig, the Heat.    

McCarthy plays a mousy but sweet CIA desk-worker who works mostly as an assistant and "voice-in-the-ear" of Jude Law's Bond-like superspy, Bradley Fine, who suddenly finds herself thrust into the field when Fine's mission to track down the daughter of a deadly arms dealer goes horribly wrong. As the film goes along, McCarthy's character does become increasingly sweary and the film is certainly unafraid to poke fun at her weight and is even less afraid to indulge in some gross-out gags at her expense but this is probably the closest she's ever come to capturing - on the big screen at least - the sweet, good-natured comedy of her character in the perennially misunderstood and underrated Gilmore Girls. Plus, she also gets to kick a very serious amount of ass as the film goes along.

Still, even if McCarthy is very, if sporadically, funny here, some of the film's best and hardest laughs come from the brilliantly understated comic timing of Rose Byrne (arguably one of the most underrated comic actors around) and from Jason Statham as a hysterically full-of-himself and delightfully over-the-top rogue(ish) spy. Yes, that Jason Statham. People seem really surprised by Jason Statham being funny at all, which is pretty surprising considering how funny he has been in the past in films like Snatch and the two Crank movies and that he has always seemed to have a sense of humour about himself, in even his most serious roles. Still, even as someone who has always found the Stath to be a funny, self-aware action star, I wasn't quite prepared for just how self-aware and funny he would be in his first full-on comic role. He's used sparingly here but he guarantees a belly laugh every single time he shows up.

Would that I could say the same about the comedy hit-ratio of the rest of the film. When Spy is funny, it's incredibly funny but far too many of its jokes fall far too flat for it to ever be a genuine modern comedy-classic. Between its over-reliance on tiresome and actually quite redundant overtly R-rated gags and at least one character that seems dreadfully out of place (seriously, what was Miranda Hart doing in this film?), Spy is just as likely to elicit groans, as it is full-on laughs. Of course, considering how utterly laugh-free most Hollywood comedies are these days, Spy's ability to bring any serious laughs at all, is really nothing to be sneezed at. That it's also a not half-bad spy flick as well, certainly doesn't hurt.

It's good stuff, in other words, but with just a bit more comedic discipline and a slightly truncated running time, it could really have been seriously bloody great.    


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